Anna Mae Lamentillo
The Philippines gears up to be a digital nation. The government’s aim is to be a prosperous middle-class society by 2040 and we aspire to be a globally competitive knowledge economy.
In line with this, digital transformation is a national priority of the government. As information and communications technology (ICT) systems have become crucial in more aspects of people’s lives and the economy, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. has emphasized the need for universal connectivity to ensure that no citizen is left behind, a fully digital government that is sensitive to the people’s needs, and enabling a conducive environment for the digital economy.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) under Secretary Ivan John Uy, is creating and implementing both mid-term and long-term plans for digital transformation across government sectors through improved interoperability and collaboration across the government and ecosystems.
The DICT is doubling efforts to provide mobile and internet services to the most remote parts of the country, aggressively implementing key programs such as the BroadBand ng Masa Program, which provides Free Wi-Fi sites in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs); the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure, which will increase total government capacity from 40,000 Mbps to 2,000,000 Mbps in the next six years; and the establishment of the National Government Data Center. Moreover, through the Common Tower Policy, we can fast-track the deployment of common towers across all regions of the country, especially in the unserved and underserved areas.
For this year, the DICT targets the completion of the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure (LBI) Phase 1; while 15,834 Free Wi-Fi sites are targeted to be launched for 2023 in public places, and 100,000 sites are expected to be made operational by 2025.
On e-governance, we are pushing for the consolidation of the E-Government and E-Governance bills that were filed before the two Houses of Congress. These measures will be crucial in transforming governance to one that is digital, anti-red tape, and efficient.
The DICT’s efforts also gave way for the initiation of the eGov Super App, which aims to become the single application that any Filipino citizen would ever need to avail of virtually all local and national government services.
We were also able to pilot launch the Integrated Local Government System (iLGU) in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement an end-to-end business registration with LGUs for business permits, clearances, real property tax, business tax, civil registry, and other permits. This will remove long lines in the city and municipal halls and streamline citizens’ transactions with LGUs. Currently, there are around 906 LGUs that will implement the Integrated Business Permit and Licensing System or iBPLS.
Meanwhile, the Philippines is consolidating its global leadership in IT-enabled services through the provision of analytical and AI skills development, a competitive enabling environment, cost efficiencies and the close cultural proximity to an international audience thereby ensuring that investors can profitably serve international and fast-growing regional markets.
The Philippines is a top-tier destination for IT-BPM services such as contact center and business process, global shared services, IT and software, healthcare, animation and game development.
To further support the growth of this industry and nurture investments in the ICT sector, aside from our efforts to provide robust and strong digital infrastructure, the Philippine Government is creating a favorable regulatory environment, including through the enactment of laws such as the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act; the Amended Public Service Act (PSA), which allows full foreign ownership in key sectors, such as telecommunications, data center operations and logistics that will support IT- BPM activities; the Amended Foreign Investments Act (FIA), which allows investments from foreign startup firms involved in advanced technology; and the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Act, which led to a series of improvements in the delivery of government services that catapulted the country’s competitiveness ranking from 124th to 95th in 2020, making it to the top 100 economies cited by the World Bank in 2019.
The DICT has also laid out programs to help cities and municipalities in the countryside become better suited to host IT-BPM companies, side by side with programs that will help promote digital inclusion and narrow the digital skills gap in the country.
The Digital Cities 2025 program highlights the value of countryside development and the capability of key locations outside Metro Manila to become thriving business districts and viable investment hubs for IT-BPM services; while the Digital Startup Development and Acceleration Program (DSDAP) aims to raise awareness and offer programs that will guide start-ups to improve their respective communities.
The DICT is also implementing learning and capacity-building programs that will help our people adapt to new modes of learning and working, such as the Tech4Ed Program, a national digital inclusion initiative that establishes physical centers or hubs that provide critical e-government and ICT-enabled services in communities with minimal to no access to information and government services. At present, we have more than 1,000 centers nationwide.
In addition, the DigitalJobsPH Program is creating meaningful ICT- enabled jobs in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas in the country, while providing technical training to develop the digital skills of Filipinos, especially those living in the countryside.
Finally, on cybersecurity, we hope to strengthen cybercrime education by promoting cyber hygiene education especially in the primary level, and prevent cybercrime by putting in more resources in cyber investigation and computer forensics. The SIM Registration Law is seen to help deter cybercrime in the form of scams, harassment, libel, and smishing, among others.
As the primary agency tasked to develop and promote the use of ICT in the country, the DICT is fully committed to do its best in fulfilling the vision of the President to make ICT an effective tool in building a safe, secure, and competitive nation.